Based on greatly improved statewide drumming counts last spring, we were excited about the prospects for fall grouse hunting. Our expectations were quickly dashed, though, after our first few days afield in September. We didn’t flush the number of birds we expected and saw few legitimate broods. The grouse we did find were wily, ran a lot and were difficult to get pointed well enough for good shooting, even with veteran grouse dogs. This became the theme for the rest of the season.
The good news was that we found more woodcock than normal. These little birds sure helped us keep our interest up when the grouse were hard to come by.
Lately, we’re still finding a fair number of grouse when working the dogs. The birds are mostly in more mature cover where they will likely spend the winter. This cover lends itself to better dog work—the birds have more places to hide and tend to sit while you walk by instead of running for the next county. We have even found the odd woodcock, most recently as November 16.
While October is usually our favorite month, it was bittersweet this year as Blue Smoke was laid to rest. He was diagnosed with several lung tumors in late August and hung on like a true champion until the pain was too great to bear.
JR, to those who knew him, was whelped in our very first litter out
of two dogs we owned, Spring Garden Tollway and Finder’s Keeper. At six
weeks of age, he didn’t look well and had a slightly bloody diarrhea.
We took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with parvovirus…..we were
shocked! He had an extended stay at the vet with intravenous fluids and
other treatments, while the rest of the litter was quarantined and
given medications. (We are grateful that we didn’t lose a single
puppy.) When JR arrived home, he recuperated in the house with us for
several days and Betsy grew very fond of him.
JR had his
work cut out for him in field trials as his main competition was his
sister, CH. Blue Streak, who lived in the next kennel. However, compete
he did. In 2000 he won the Minnesota Grouse Dog Championship with
Sherry Ebert judging. The following spring he won the Pennsylvania All
Age with 50 entries and later that week was named reserve dog at the
2001 Grand National Grouse and Woodcock Invitational. He was also
runner-up for the 2001 Minnesota-Wisconsin Shooting Dog of the year,
being slightly edged out by his half-sister, CH. A Rolling Stone.
summer 2001 he started to limp on his right front leg and his ankle
swelled. The veterinary diagnosis indicated calcium buildup and
arthritis of his ankle caused by wear and tear. Even with this injury
he was named day dog on the first day of the 2002 Grand National Grouse
and Woodcock Invitational and went on to compete the final day.
the 2002 season we ran him sparingly in field trials and hunted over
him only for short periods of time. He became our camp dog on the North
Dakota prairie and enjoyed his time protecting our camp from strangers.
was bred selectively, but one of his first litters produced Milk Run
Jessi who won the 200x Minnesota Wisconsin Derby of the year. We bred
our dog, Blue Chief, to Jessi and to her sister. Several nice dogs from
those bloodlines are still in our kennel today.
JR was a
bull on his birds and was as lofty and intense as they come with a poker
straight tail and elevated head. He never went around anything if he
thought there was a bird straight through it. He always gave 110% in
whatever he did and was forever trying to anticipate what I wanted him
to do. Sometimes he was right and others, well, he was close most of
We have a family photo of JR, his sister Streak
and dam Keeper, all three backing Tollway. Now they are all hunting
together again in a place where the temperature is always in the 40s,
the sky is slightly overcast and all the birds sit tight to be
pointed—only this time the others might be backing JR!